Four generations ago my mother's side of our family were crofters.
Then, at the end of WW1 not enough men returned to continue caring for the land so crofting families moved to the cities to find employment. Only my grandmother's sister and her husband managed to survive on their small croft in Aberdeenshire where I spent many happy holidays.
Since these days the draw of the cities has continued to influence younger generations and crofts were sold or left unoccupied.
This week the Crofting Reform Bill was passed by the Scottish parliament by 66 votes to zero, with 59 abstentions. Scottish ministers say there are almost 2000 absentee crofters and an unknown number of neglected crofts out of the 18,000 across the Highlands and Islands. Under the Bill's provisions, all crofters, whether owner-occupiers or tenants, will have a duty to occupy and work the land.
It will see enhanced powers for the Crofting Commission, which will take over from the current organisation of the same name, to clamp down on absenteeism and neglect. The creation of a new map-based register of crofts was also approved by MSPs despite opposition efforts to have it struck from the Bill.
There can't be a crofter in the whole of Scotland not pleased the Bill has passed. The average croft (smallholding) is around five hectares these days and the crofter's living is comes from produce and livestock. Absentee crofters can destroy small communities because there is a strong emphasis on collective working, kinship and the preservation of culture and heritage. I can but hope this will see the end of crofts being sold then used as holiday homes - a common occurrence in recent years.